The People’s Choices
By Dennis Sun
A recent study by the University of Wyoming (UW) has some really good information outlining just what the people of Wyoming want to see in regard to types of energy and energy development.
The joint study and survey were conducted through 2019 and 2020 by the UW’s School of Energy Resources and Ruckelshaus Institute at the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources.
According to the executive summary, the study explored Wyoming residents’ values, beliefs and perceptions regarding the state’s energy economy. It also focused on the future of the state’s relationship to energy given the rapid changes in energy markets.
The authors framed this study in terms of social license – society’s or a local community’s acceptance or approval of a company’s activities or operations. The study also explored Wyoming residents’ acceptance and approval regarding different energy futures.
I hope those who completed the survey and those who conducted the study realize the public has a voice and a vote on what happens within the state. However, a lot of minerals and energy are under contracts between private owners and private companies in Wyoming, which cannot be altered or stopped.
While the study will come in handy for future planning, national and state economics will ultimately drive development. Once these contracts are finalized, the public has to honor them. However, if they are federal minerals or are on federal lands, it is a different story.
Again, the study is great for planning for the future, whether it’s for a young family or individuals who have retired and moved to Wyoming to escape the high taxes or crime in one of our nation’s big cities.
While quality of life is important to all, the young family wants good jobs, great schools, safe and adequate infrastructure and a future for their children, if they choose to stay in Wyoming.
The retirees want low taxes, great medical services and a safe place to enjoy life. Both of these goals require dollars to become a reality, so we can’t pick and choose which types of energy we want. Some may want an electric car and some day, most likely sooner than later, we may make the move to electric cars, but some type of energy has to provide the electricity to charge the car.
People need to realize quality of life for a diverse state is going to require a large source of funding and a large part of this funding will come from energy, especially while we diversify our state’s economy.
The study recognized these concerns with three themes – renewability, economics and quality of life. Concerns of climate change were a large part of both the renewable and economic themes. Development of nuclear energy was part of the quality of life theme.
Overall, those surveyed had concerns for Wyoming’s economy. The survey was conducted before the coronavirus pandemic began, and the Q-study was conducted during the pandemic. I imagine the state’s budget deficit plays a larger part in the economy issue.
We applaud UW for developing this study and the survey responses. As diverse as Wyoming is, there will be both support and criticism, but it will be good for discussion and planning of goals. Just remember, goals need to achievable.